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The reigning champion Notre Dame Fighting Irish received all 31 first-place votes in the Associated Press‘ preseason women’s college basketball poll for the 2018-19 season.
The Connecticut Huskies, Oregon Ducks, Baylor Lady Bears and Louisville Cardinals round out the Top Five.
Here’s a look at the complete AP poll:
1. Notre Dame (31)
6. Mississippi State
8. Oregon State
10. South Carolina
17. NC State
20. Texas A&M
22. South Florida
23. Arizona State
25. Miami (Fla.)
It’s no surprise to see the Irish atop the initial rankings as they return their core four players from last year’s title team.
Arike Ogunbowale led the way at 20.8 points per game during the 2017-18 campaign and was named the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Jessica Shepard (15.6), Jackie Young (14.5) and Marina Mabrey (14.4) also averaged double figures in scoring and return.
“I think there is going to be a little bit of pressure, but most of it is self-imposed,” McGraw said. “When you listen to what is going on in the outside, it can affect you, so we’ve really got to stay together and concentrate on who is in the locker room.”
Notre Dame scored a 107-65 exhibition triumph over the Division II Lewis Flyers on Tuesday night and will tip off the regular season Nov. 9 against the Harvard Crimson.
The Irish’s main competition is expected to come from perennial championship contender UConn.
They faced off in last year’s Final Four, and Notre Dame scored a 91-89 overtime victory. They’ll meet again Dec. 2 in the Jimmy V Classic in what could be a preview of the 2019 title game.
Oregon, Baylor and Louisville headline the teams that hope to the crash the party, though.